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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6388

Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (16:46): Before I commence my contribution to this important matter of urgency debate today I would like to acknowledge that this week the parliament is hosting participants in the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program. It is a wonderful opportunity for all senators and members to have someone from the Australian Defence Force work with them for a week. I am very privileged indeed to have Lieutenant Commander Steven McCracken from the Australian Navy tracking me around this building and assisting me in understanding more about Defence, Defence personnel and what they do for our country.

I have been privileged to serve in this Senate chamber with Liberal senators who stood up for South Australia and fought very hard to bring defence industries to South Australia and to keep defence industries in South Australia. I am talking about former Senators Hill, Minchin and Vanstone. I certainly did not agree with them on a lot of things, but I agree with their passion for Defence in South Australia. No doubt, they had to stare down their cabinet colleagues and occasionally a Prime Minister to ensure that South Australia was part of Team Australia. Now we have a Prime Minister who talks about Team Australia but clearly leaves South Australia right out of the team. Who do we have now in the Senate chamber standing up for South Australia? Certainly lots of senators on this side of the chamber. Senator Wong, Senator Gallacher and I are standing up for South Australia.

We had a contribution earlier in this debate from Senator Edwards, which I have to say was completely farcical. I am not sure how many times he mentioned submarines in his speech about submarines—not very often. He talked a lot about roads and other things. He very rarely turned his attention to the critical matter of the future of defence shipbuilding and the future submarine project to our home state of South Australia. I do not agree with all of what Senator David Fawcett said, but at least his contribution was considered and thoughtful and he has some view of the future.

Senators Birmingham, Bernardi and Ruston have been no-shows in this debate. Where are they? Indeed, where is the state Liberal leader, Steven Marshall, in this debate? Steven Marshall was quite prepared to stand with the Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston, last year before the election and swear solemnly that they would commit to building the 12 future submarines in my home state of South Australia at the Australian Submarine Corporation. But now, like the minister, Steven Marshall is running away from that commitment. They promised the people of South Australia one thing before the election and immediately after the election they reneged on that commitment and are walking away from the 27,000 people in South Australia who are employed in defence industries. It was the same Senator Johnston, the now Minister for Defence, who before the federal election told us how fired up he got when people questioned the ability of Australians to continue to supply defence platforms. He said on 9 August 2013:

I get really fired up when I find us giving away our manufacturing base in the Defence space to foreign manufacturers, it’s just not on.

That is what the then opposition spokesperson for defence said before the federal election. What do we find out now after the federal election? There are sneaky visits of Japanese submarine builders to the Australian Submarine Corporation in South Australia. Undoubtedly there are negotiations between the now defence minister and those submarine providers from overseas about the future submarine project. He is not hot under the collar now. He is not standing up for South Australian defence manufacturing now. He is cosying up to another country and is planning to outsource the building and the design of 12 Australian submarines, which are integral to the future of defence shipbuilding and shipbuilding generally in my home state of South Australia.

Senator Bernardi: Have you ever been down there?

Senator McEWEN: I am devastated to think that this promise that was made by the Liberal government before the election is now going to be reneged on by people like you, Senator Bernardi, because Liberal senators in this place have clearly been rolled by their cabinet colleagues. They have not got the guts to stand up to the Prime Minister and say, 'What are you going to do for South Australia?' You have not got the guts. You are all so frightened of your own shadow and you are all so ambitious that you do not want to upset the Prime Minister.

Senator Bernardi: I'm ambitious!

Senator McEWEN: We know your ambitions are finished, Senator Bernardi, but the rest of them are gutless wonders.

It is a tragedy for my home state of South Australia that this crucial Defence shipbuilding industry is now going to be ignored and walked away from in favour of submarines being built somewhere else—not by South Australians, Senator Bernardi, probably by overseas workers. The future of Defence shipbuilding is absolutely integral to the economy of South Australia. If those Liberal senators over there do not understand it, then they should get up out of their seats, resign their positions and give them to those who will stand up for South Australia.

Question agreed to.